Araneta crowd pays tribute to Kobe Bryant

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant, has given Filipino basketball fans 20 years of thrilling basketball during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers — now, at the end of the first day of his first visit to the country (since his retirement in April this year), it’s the Filipinos’ turn to give back.

At the final event of Day 1 of the Mamba Mentality Tour, Bryant was left facing a grateful crowd of over 10,000 fans at the Araneta Coliseum.

It was the end of the day’s activities and host Aaron Atayde proceeded to praise Kobe.

“With everything that Kobe has done for each and every one of us, I need everyone who has ever cheered for Kobe to take out your phone and turn on your flashlight,” said Atayde.

On cue, an emotional crowd lit up the dimmed arena as cheers erupted at the sight of thousands of lights switched on to greet the Mamba.

With the lights still trained on Kobe, the attention of the crowd was brought to the rafters, where a red and white banner of the iconic Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight ’The Thrilla in Manila’ hung.

Then across that banner the Araneta Coliseum unveiled a new addition to the gallery, revealing an image of Kobe Bryant walking towards the locker room with the words ‘Mamba Mentality Tour’ scrawled on the bottom.

The crowd erupted as Kobe addressed those present.

“I just want to say thank you so much for inspiring me on this journey,” said Bryant as he addressed the crowd one last time.

Kobe expressed how everything, since he first picked up a basketball, went far beyond his wildest dreams and expectations.

It was a moment wherein the entire coliseum hung by his every word, and could be best described by a moment during the speech when a group in the crowd screamed out ‘I love you, Kobe!’

To which he replied, “Hey, I love you too!”